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Cabin in the Woods Film Festival Podcast – Ep 11 – Inside

And we’re back! This time on the Cabin in the Woods Film Festival Podcast Angela (of The Film Confessional Podcast)and I take a user submission and I face her wrath! You see, this all started when somehow some people on Row Three once again started complaining about people liking Cabin in the Woods too much. Now, this discussion quickly turned into horror films for women, or the lack of them, and Kurt Halfyard made the rather bold suggestion that the French New Wave Horror film Inside was a great horror film for women.

Now, for those of you who don’t know much about the film, I think pretty much anyone besides Kurt would never make the claim it is a great horror film for women. but nonetheless, I throw that Canuck under the bus and unleash the Angela upon him.

But once we move past the initial rage and frustration from a modern woman scorned, we move on to one of the more interesting discussions that I have had the pleasure of having with Angela. We discuss the state of horror, the male obsession with it, the way various media write for women and we even lift up the covers and talk about the underlying sexual dynamics that are present in the horror genre. Its a fascinating discussion, and I think many of you might have to think twice about how you view horror films.

In other news, this is our first show with our new fancy mics and mixing board. It was something I’ve wanted to do for some time, and I’ve spent the past few months slowly acquiring the pieces necessary to pull this off. I’m pretty happy with everything so far, but this is still pretty new tech for me so don’t be surprised if their are some bumps along the way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the new sound, as well as the show itself and suggestions for films that might be a bit more geared to women for some future shows.

As always, thanks for listening!

Opening Theme – Help, I’m Alive by Metric
Closing Music – Show Me Your Genitals by Jon Lajoie

Cabin in the Woods Film Festival Podcast – Ep 11 - Inside 
[ 83:47 | 38.4 MB ] 
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I review movies. I run a movie theatre. I annoy people. I let my dogs lick my face whenever they want. Sometimes I'm even a halfway decent human.

28 thoughts on “Cabin in the Woods Film Festival Podcast – Ep 11 – Inside

  1. Can’t wait to listen to this one, because I think the “women in horror” subject is a fascinating one. And the horror genre is really all over the map on it, with some true classics being very women-centric.

    This might be a subject where the “Bechdel test” is useful. Perhaps developing a horror specific “Fabbrini test” is in order.

    1. While I think there are some good horror films that have a female cast, and a sizeable bunch that do treat women with respect, horror films that are designed and made for women are incredibly rare. You have to move to thriller or fantasy films with horror elements before you start really seeing any crop up with regularity.

      That is more Angela’s issue. The genre simply isn’t inclusive, and really makes no efforts to be so, so fans shouldn’t be shocked that women almost uniformly regect the genre.

  2. I get what you are saying in terms of our lead character in A L’Interieur doesn’t really experience a lot of growth in the film and that the film is very violent (and meticulous in its violence). I’m not even really a gore-hound and hate that pander-y shit in general. But I do like a horror film that makes profane a lot of things, and all the pregnancy stuff therein. That the protagonist rises to the occasion (more or less)

    The foundation of seeing this film (In the Cinema, I’ve only seen it once) and how it builds suspense on a craft level. But not just that, anecdotal-ly, sitting near ladies (My friends Serena Whitney and Polly Esther) during the screening, and talking about how much they enjoyed the VISCERAL nature of the film (which is subtly different from ‘I like good kills at that is that.’)

    I might (or maybe not) be interesting to look at all the female critics who reviewed A L’Interieur.

    I think it’s tricky (and perhaps insulting) to boil ‘a film for women’ when there is so much difference amongst a group that is 1/2 of the population. In the same way that I don’t really like ‘men movies’ like Braveheart, Scarface or The Rock. And correct me if I’m wrong, Women really do form a major demographic in mainstream horror films. Look at the SCREAM franchise, for instance – way more girls going to that one than boys.

    I’m terms of how I ‘subjectively’ evaluate horror films is a) if it is subversive towards social mores and takes it to a logical/ridiculous extreme (as Videodrome was to the ‘Baby Blue’ movies shown on public TV in Toronto), or b) if it honestly terrifies me (this is seldom), or c) if it is exceptionally high on craft (really this makes me appreciate any film in any genre.

    1. Yes, but don’t you find the pregnancy pretty damn obvious? If they are going to subvert the woman in danger cliche tthis is the best they could come up with? It is incredibly one note throughout the film. I’d rather watch Grace which at least is attempting to have some actual conflict besides the physical.

      It is subtlely different only in the spelling.

      It might be, but genre films tend to be very selective in who they “let” review them, and the majority of horror critics are male.

      Sure, I think you are potentially treading on offensive ground by saying horror should be catering to “women,but you are incorrect that women form a major demographic in horror audiences. It is ~70% male with ~50% under the age of 25. It is heavily skewed to males. Even among women the demographics skew incredibly young. The genre simply doesn’t appeal to women or anyone over the age of 25. The audience abandons the genre pretty much wholesale as it is viewed as being immature, and honestly I can’t really blame them. Also, I’m pretty positive that the Scream audience was not “way” more girls than guys. In fact I’m pretty sure at best it skews 50/50, as I know the last film fit those demographics. For horror films, that makes it a chick flick.

  3. The biggest problem of Cabin in the Woods( and I do like the film) is that it is not a horror film. It does not offer the scars or the atmosphere of a horror film. If you are going to analyze and critique horror, fucking bring it on!

  4. 1. For the record, I made no endorsement of Inside. That was all Kurt.

    2. I think I’m in an untenable position on Cabin in the Woods in that I liked it, but didn’t love it, which means I get it from both sides. Mostly for a variety of nitpicky reasons. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t recommend it, only that I wouldn’t put it on a best of the year list.

    And, as I said, I feel that I was mostly reviewing the reviewers instead of the movie, which is a cardinal mistake on my part.

    3. That said, I stand by the “Cabin in the Woods is not a game-changer” comment. Frankly, it just wasn’t successful enough for that and didn’t really provide a model for moving forward other than try to have Joss Whedon attached and appeal to women more. The Hollywood franchise horror category is still dominated by the likes of Paranormal Activity.

    4. The horror genre, especially the Hollywood franchise portion, is full of misogyny and laziness. No argument from me.

    5. That said, the idea that appealing to women is the key to crossover success, isn’t entirely new. It’s at least been around since the ’40s when a bunch of American males were shipped overseas to fight a war, the Universal monsters went the kiddie route with their monster rally films, and Val Lewton made Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie (clearly inspired by Jane Eyre), and Curse of the Cat People which were much more female centric than horror that had come before. And, although it’s certainly not been 100%, plenty of the big horror successes have courted the female audience.

    Some superficially, Christopher Lee in Horror of Dracula was clearly sold as a “sexy vampire” to appeal to women by Hammer.

    But a lot of the big successes since have clearly had females in important, significant roles with their own agency. Sure, having a female protagonist won’t automatically gather female interest, but a well written, well acted, female protagonist with her own agency will certainly get a film off to a good start. Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, and “Mother” are clearly important parts of Psycho. The Haunting, based on a Shirley Jackson novel, clearly has crossover appeal. Mia Farrow, Ellen Burstyn, and Sissy Spacek are central to the success of Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and Carrie. It’s true that Ripley was only coincidentally female in Alien, but Cameron clearly ran with it making Ripley the protective mother in Aliens. Cameron also turned Sarah Connor from damsel in distress to fierce, protective mother of mankind’s messiah in Terminator. It’s no coincidence that Jo Beth Williams stays home and deals with things while the father is off working in Poltergeist. John Carpenter’s biggest financial success was Halloween which featured a likable Jamie Lee Curtis credibly defending herself, while the male dominated The Thing cratered. Cronenberg’s biggest horror financial success was The Fly which featured a tragic love story at the center. Clarice Starling and Dana Scully are important symbols of the 90s professional woman. Kathy Bates in Misery was a huge crossover success. Heck, I think at least part of the success of Scream is the whodunnit aspects which allow Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox something to do to drive the plot forward.

    Those aren’t obscure examples, but some of the biggest hits in the history of the genre. None of them small cult hits.

    Which is not to excuse the horror genre, especially lately. But the idea of broadening the appeal to females has plenty of precedents for it. Frankly, I think that that’s partly why the horror film is still a more lively genre than the western, which never has really figured out how to appeal to females. At least the modern female audience.

    To me, the game changer will be the next franchise horror film that courts the female audience successfully and sustainably. A franchise will make people stand up and take notice, not a moderately successful one off.

    1. 1) Kurt is on an island, only he doesn’t know it.

      2) I agree your opinion on CitW is a cardinal mistake. ;)

      3) I think you are probably right. It simply isn’t a big enough movie to convince Hollywood to take notice of anything it offered. Though, at the time people made the claim no one knew that, they only knew that it was different than what Hollywood had been previously offering.

      4) Nuff said.

      5) I think you are both refuting and making our point. Serveal of those films were not even marketed as horror films, but as thrillers. As that is how you draw in both larger audiences and wider demographics. Heck, Poltergeist is arguably a kids films, and because audiences thought that is why PG-13 even exists. I think it should also be noted that almost everyone of your examples is at least 20 years old, and the single one that isn’t, Scream, has absolutely run itself into the ground. In that time Hollywood horror has turned into a derivative shell of itself, literally remaking horror franchise after horror franchise and hardly offering up anything new that can be taken with more than a grain of salt. And often times backtracking on all of the in-roads that had been previously made in regards to appealing to mainstream audiences and/or women. The genre is dying, and pretty quickly.

      I don’t think horror will ever go away, it is just too rich of a medium to work in, and foreign efforts are clearly illustrating there are plenty of interesting horror films still to be made and seen, but if they (as in Hollywood) ever wants horror to be more than a 25 and under boys club, the genre needs to make some drastic changes and very quickly.

      1. My point that finding ways to appeal to women isn’t really a new idea, as much as an idea that through laziness hasn’t really been picked up on despite a lot of evidence that women will respond to a non-misogynistic horror film.

        To an extent, the Paranormal Activity films might not be good films, but they don’t really go out of their way to alienate women with gore, instead relying more on atmosphere with some jump scares, and I think that’s part of their successful appeal. (Disclaimer: I’ve only seen the first one.)

        That misogyny has really been a problem in franchise horror with a lot of franchises getting sequel after sequel primarily because they’re cheap. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Alien franchise has been, by far, the most successful grossing franchise. Probably with Hannibal Lecter close behind. And Scream somewhere in the ballpark. You give the audience something extra and horror generally gets rewarded for it.

        I also don’t think it really matters that the lines of the horror genre are often fuzzy and many of the borderline cases may be more aptly called thrillers. I think you need some atmosphere of dread for a film to truly be classified as a horror film, but that’s a very subjective call. I’m not sure the general public is all that concerned about exact classification though, as a scary film is a scary film.

        That said, I don’t really need to see an impassive killer/monster stalking after a helpless female that keeps screaming and tripping over every little branch ever again. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be better. All horror films don’t have to have a “girl power” message, but they don’t have to go out of their way to alienate women either. There’s nothing wrong with essentially gender neutral horror like The Blair Witch Project or, even, [Rec].

        I also think that it’s important to note that horror shouldn’t be singled out for how women have been handled. The western and action film genres don’t exactly have a stellar record. Science fiction’s record is more spotty than it should be. If we lined up the best of the horror genre in regards to treating women in an interesting fashion, I think horror would stack up well. Heck, it’s one of the few genres where the main protagonist is as likely as not to be a female. Probably because horror is cheap and a relatively open genre, you can point to all sorts of interesting threads in the genre including a feminist horror sub-genre. There’s also a lot of terrible junk in the genre which features some of the worst of human nature, including cheap profiteering, which often drowns out the genuinely artistic. If you’re looking at the median of the genre, I certainly think the idea that horror is unfriendly to women is genuinely true. But, it’s not even so much the long tail but a sizable counter-current that’s also progressive and interesting.

        For that matter, if Matt didn’t believe that’s true, there would be no point to the Cabin in the Woods podcast. Unless we’re to believe that Matt is a sadist and only out to torment Angela. Only Angela can answer that.

        1. I think you’re right that horror has appealed to women in the past, and I think that studio execs have pretty much tried to exhaust every other reason why those films succeeded. Remember how people stated that execs didn’t think a woman could headline a major franchise that appealed to men until Hunger Games was released? They seem to have a memory that only goes back about 5 years or so.

          I think you’re right about Paranormal. I’m sure the whole (ZSSPOILER) coven of witches angle helps some too. The big issue with those is the same issue facing more Hollywood horror films, barely anyone over 25 is going to them. That’s where I think you are wrong in that the audience doesn’t care about labels. The demographics pretty clearly show women and people over the age of 25 are not going to horror films. They will turn out for thrillers like Dragon Tattoo or Silence of the Lambs, but the moment the horror label gets slapped oin it they stay away in droves. 30 years ago I don’t think it made any difference, but Hollywood has de-valued the horror label so much its in the toilet. I also don’t think it helps that more and more Thrillers are being pushed to the arthouse scene (Bernie, Compliance, Killer Joe) which also limits the audience these films get. In other words, there are a lot of issues that need to be fixed.

          I totally agree that not all horror films need any sort of Girl Power message, or even be written for woemn, but I think those kinds of films could be interesting. Red Road is a horror film I think would play well with women, while scaring the shit out of men. Its a film I eventually plan on having Angela watch as it scares the hell out of me and I’d love to hear her feministic take on the film. Those kinds of films I find potentially very interesting. But really I’d just like it if women weren’t simply so one note all the time.

          While I think it is true that horror shouldn’t be singled out, I think it should be paying attention to what happened to westerns, which were at one time the most popular genre for film. Over its history I think horror would stack up well, but in the last 20-30 years it would do pretty poorly, at least in terms of Hollywood’s output. Honestly, without foreign horror we’d be in seriosuly sorry shape.

          And yes, I do think there is a ton of value in horror, and I do think it is dismissed a bit too quickly by people. I think there are some truly fantastic films that exist within the genre (Texas Chainsaw Massacre is pretty easily in my Top 10) and I think horror can do things that no other genre can, the same way that sci-fi is able to get away with things that other genres can’t. Though on occassion I enjoy scaring the crap out of Angela, though I think she would agree that I’ve tried to be pretty delicate with her while doing this. The 28 Weeks Later “incident” is entirely her fault though.

          1. I tend to think that the same thing is happening to horror that happened to comics after Watchmen. The surface elements, grit, violence, sex, were emulated in comics, even in properties where it did more harm than good, because it was too hard to do the structure, symbolism, and complex characterization and plotting that Alan Moore did. Instead the easiest things to emulate were ripped off without understanding why those things were novel and interesting in the first place. I don’t think comics have ever really recovered from those excesses. And I think it’s no coincidence that they have been downplayed in Marvel’s films.

            I kind of wonder if television is partly behind the changing demographics for horror films. X-Files was certainly popular after the 80s horror bubble really burst and I don’t think the presence of Gillian Anderson is something to be dismissed. Buffy is more dark fantasy, but it’s certainly related. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Walking Dead and American Horror Story have a significant female presence in the cast. Heck, when was the last time a horror franchise had an actress like Jessica Lange as a headliner? Lange, particularly in Season 2 of AHS, is turning in a far more complex performance than what we’ve gotten out of most horror films in a while.

            I also think that Saw and Hostel managed to alienate a good chunk of women based on their reputations. My reading of Hostel is that it’s specifically targeted at military recruitment age men, but it’s reputation is anything but appealing to those not in the demographic. Those two films cast a real shadow over a decade that really started with The Blair Witch Project, had a huge hit with the female centric The Ring, and included a high Gothic ghost story like The Others at the outset. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that The Woman in Black, with the appealing Daniel Radcliffe, was a success. There were more than a few over 25 females in my theater when I saw it.

            But, I’m too inside to really see the reputation of the genre, especially since I’m aware of the history and good (sometimes obscure) stuff. That’s partly why I enjoy this podcast and Angela’s outsider perspective. I learn things and I’m generally entertained. Sometimes especially when Angela is yelling at Matt.

  5. Also, I do want to note that I enjoyed this episode a lot. Interesting discussion, the sound mixing sounded very good to me, and the animal interruptions were amusing to note.

  6. Oh, since Angela asked…

    Why I Love Horror

    The first thing to understand is that I’m a 70s monster kid. Back when we had six channels of television (two of them PBS) our choices were limited and a lot of 70s television and cartoons looked god awful. Not so the Universal and Hammer horrors, along with 50s sci-fi horror and Japanese kaiju, that were a staple of 70s television. Frankly, there was nothing in those movies that was as disturbing as what was going down on the evening news on a nightly basis.

    To this day, I still love those old movies. Especially since they, mostly, didn’t rely on shock value in place of atmosphere and good acting. With the exception of Robert Englund, I don’t sense the same level of attachment as to Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Price, Cushing, and Lee from later horror fans. The high gothic style of much of Universal and Hammer is also something I’m a sucker for.The heightened senses and often gothic imagery of a classic horror movie I find aesthetically pleasing to this day. There’s a good amount of classic horror movies that are essentially modern fairy tales.

    But, horror has never gone away and there’s definitely a continuum from that to the present, with new ways of commenting on the same old material. You can spot traces of Hammer and 50s sci-fi in John Carpenter. Tim Burton has clearly been influenced by Hammer, Universal, and Bava. Guillermo Del Toro is obviously not ignorant of his roots. And there’s a give and take of responses to old material. Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are both based, to an extent, on Ed Gein. The original Fright Night was partially a love letter to Hammer and Peter Cushing. The giant monster genre may have been started by King Kong, made it’s way to Japan, but it’s worth noting when the Koreans put their spin on it with The Host. Sexy vampires can trace their legacy to Christopher Lee. The evolution of Frankenstein, Dracula, vampires in general, werewolves, Satanic cults, mad scientists, etc. through the decades is always interesting. Although horror does repeat itself, especially in lazy franchises, it’s always been able to find ways to renew itself. And that renewal is often interesting. Found footage is often awful, but it’s certainly a novel and different aesthetic. The bio-pic is stuck in more of a rut aesthetically, with perhaps films like I’m Not There and American Splendor pointing out different approaches, which really haven’t stuck.

    That said, I’m often critical of latter horror films looking terrible and being poorly acted. Sometimes, that fits the material though, as the punk rock cousin to the more polished predecessors. There’s a place for it, although style lasts for me.

    Beyond that, I think there are a couple of other things that horror has going for it. First, horror seems to be the one genre where an unhappy ending will satisfy the audience. As well as a happy ending. That leaves talented filmmakers with a lot more leeway, if they choose to exercise it. Granted, a lot of filmmakers are lazy, particularly when working with franchises, but more than most other genres there’s still the sense of unpredictability to the genre. Especially for the one off film. I challenge anyone to guess the ending of something like Don’t Look Now ahead of time. There’s very little sense of artistic danger to a lot of genres, and horror is still one where playing against expectations will be met with welcome arms.

    Second, horror is perhaps the best genre at using subtext properly. Dramas especially are guilty of using the climatic speech to spell out all the subtext and turn it into text. Something like Bride of Frankenstein has enormous subtextural readings which makes revisiting it with the analysis hat on always a joy. Heck, because they had to go through censorship in England, a lot of English horror has unspoken implications that couldn’t be censored. In general, horror isn’t a talky genre and I think that works in its favor. I find that enormously pleasing aesthetically.

    And, in a comfort food setting, I like that horror is generally efficient. There are a lot of classics of the genre that clock in at 90 minutes or less. There are times for 3 hour epics, and there are times when I just want to finish a whole story in one sitting. Strictly for convenience, that’s a plus.

    1. They Live (http://wherethelongtailends.com/cabin-in-the-woods-film-festival-%e2%80%93-they-live/) was the first one we did, though that was back when I did these as written reviews. I think the podcast format works much better IMO. We’ve also watched The Thing at some point, which she liked. I don’t know if we’ve done any other Carpenter than that. I know she has never seen Big Trouble in Little China so that will have to be done at some point. I think if I do another Carpenter as part of this it would probably be more likely to be something like Assault on Precinct 13 than one of his more “true” horror films.

  7. It’s probably a good time to bring up the opening weekend success of Mama, a film which the studio specifically went out of the way to target women filmgoers in advertising, as a relevant point of data to this discussion.

  8. Is there any chance of re-upping this or any of the previous episodes. Really enjoyed the four that are available and would like to hear the rest.

      1. Hey Matt. Cheers for doing that. The Inside episode looks pretty interesting so if you ask me to choose I’d go with that. Thanks again.

        1. Alright, got this one uploaded. Let me know any others you want me to prioritize and I’ll do them next.

          In related news, Angela is getting a hankering for recording a new episode.

          1. Just downloaded the episode, looking forward to it.

            Going through the list of episodes, the Audition one sounds like fun. The fact you showed her that takes massive balls so my hats off to you.

            Anyway thanks for all the effort next time I get a chance I’ll kick in some cash through a donation.

          2. Re-uploaded the first 4. The Eden Lake one I really like as Angela gets super pissed at me for that one and I spend a half hour defending the film.

            I’ll try and get a few more up over the next few weeks.

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